Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sory Abowt That

As I mentioned in a recent post, we've been watching The Adventures of Tintin, a Canadian TV series from 1991. One of the joys of watching, besides the multifarious adventures, is the collection of assembled accents. Whenever an English character appears, he utters syllables that surely have never passed the lips of any citizen of the British Isles. However, Tintin's dulcet Canadian tones more than make up for other abuses. We don't often get the chance, in our neck of the woods, to hear a genuine Canadian accent, and Tintin's is a doozy.

What stands out, particularly, is his pronunciation of the word "sorry". I'm going to render it as "SORE-y", though it could also be spelled "sory". At one point he has to apologize profusely to a room of tourists. "SORE-y!" he exclaims. "Sory, everyone. Sory abowt that!"

Delightful, eh?

This started me thinking about how I pronounce "sorry". Although I've standardized a good deal throughout the years, I still carry some of the cadences of my Virginia childhood and my mother's Baton Rouge roots. When I need to apologize a la Tintin, I might say "SAH-ry uh-BAOUt THAt." (The small t at the end denotes not a dropped letter, but a closing without a distinct explosive sound.)

Darwin grew up in Los Angeles and can have a quick monotone West Coast delivery at times. My best approximation of his off-the-cuff apology ("Hey hon, say "Sorry about that", will you?") is "Srry'bouthat".

Eleanor, age 10 in about 30 minutes, has appeared in the library complaining of growing pains. When asked to speak the phrase, she produces a perfect "Sorry about that" with no discernible accent. Is it a good blend of West and South? Do Darwin and I use better diction when speaking to the children? I don't  know, but her pronunciation needs no apology.


Brandon said...

I've been caught saying 'Sorry' Canadian-style; I don't think it's the way I usually pronounce it, but it sometimes comes out. Comes of living there for several years, I guess. I don't have the Canadian 'about', though, and would deny it if I did.

Foxfier said...

Heck, half the time I say "gomenasigh"-- a horrible butchering of the Japanese, which is kinda along the lines of "my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault."

I murder it so horribly, I'm pretty sure folks think I'm saying something like "Gosh I so sorry."

Enbrethiliel said...


When I was in uni, a Korean guy made me self-conscious about the way I make the O sound. We were discussing Gothic literature, and he said that when I said the first part, it sounded like, "GAH-thik."

Then I told a Kiwi friend about that, and she said that the way Americans say "God" is similar and that she personally finds it annoying. So I learned to say, "GHOH-thik," "GHOHD" and so on, having no idea how strange I sounded to everyone but Kiwis . . . until I returned to Manila and referred to a local fastfood chain as "JHOH-li-bee" and had everyone laughing at me for days.

Geoff Busbridge said...

To my ear, Americans do say "Gaawd", which always sounds faintly... insincere? Or maybe just weird?

Of course sorry is pronounced 'sore-y'. If it were meant to be pronounced 'sare-y' it would be spelled that way. ;)

lissla lissar said...

Oh argh. That was me and not my husband. I thought I logged in!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in South Africa (Sow Thafrica for some :) ) where vowels are clipped until they scream. Funnily enough, I've known some evangelical pastors there whose pronunciation of God sounds like GAHD. Maybe God is American?

MrsDarwin said...

Brandon, denial is not just a river in Ontario. :)

I find that I also say GAHd and GAH-thik. The only thing I know about Kiwi pronunciation, from my grand scholarly perspective of having listened to Peter Jackson in interviews combined with watching Heavenly Creatures, is that all "e"s are pronounced long. I'm sleepy, so I'll go to bEEd. I have a hEEdache. Give me some stEEk and EEgs.

Any Kiwis reading, feel free to correct me on this.

Lissla, I do the same thing too often. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


I can't fake a Kiwi accent too well, but I remember being fascinated by the way it both stretches out and clips the long E sound.

When I imagine my friends saying your little script, Mrs. Darwin, what I hear in my head is: "I'll go to bid. I have a hidache . . ."

Enbrethiliel said...


And before I forget again . . .

I have no idea what you mean by "SORE-y"! =P How do Americans usually say it?

lissla lissar said...

It sounds between 'Sare-y' and 'Sour-y' to me, depending on where the American speaking is from, but I'm a Canadian, hoser. Take off, eh?

To me, the Canadian pronounciation of 'about' sounds more like 'aboat' than 'aboot'. We don't elongate the ou part much.

Banshee said...

The English "o in God, o in cot" sound doesn't exist for most Americans, or is part of an indistinguishable spectrum of sounds that we use at will. Similarly, most Americans don't distinguish the a sounds in Mary/marry/merry (although some pronounce the "Merry" in "Merry Christmas" just a tad more Englishly). Those who do make a distinction are usually from areas of early English settlement.

And there's no reason to feel bad about that. There's hundreds of years of legitimate vowel change that drove it, and it's highly unlikely that you could reverse that process with a bulldozer. So why worry? Unless you're trying to reproduce an English choral sound or planning to succumb to UK peer pressure, there's not any reason to think about it.

PS. Your child has an accent. It's one of the southern Ohio accents (ie, not part of the Northern Cities band like Cleveland and Toledo), although I'd want to listen to know if it's more Cincinnati, Dayton we-say-everything accent collision, or rural southern Ohio. Columbus also has some distinctive accent stuff.

But most people don't notice the subtleties; and traditionally, Cincinnati (WLW) and Dayton were the training grounds for US broadcaster accents. That's why you don't hear an accent.

American dialect linguistics is super fun stuff. Just enjoy and appreciate, and don't try to stand in the way.